A thoroughly reliable pink for summer – or anytime.
From €11.40, $13.57, 14.90 Swiss francs, £14.95
Like the first cuckoo in spring, the first rosé of summer is much anticipated, heralding the longer days and sunnier skies of the warmest months. Typically, it is a wet and cold day in London as I write, so this week's Provençal rosé will have to be transportative rather than complementary: imagine the sky stained pink over the ocean as the sun dips below the horizon while you recline on your Sunseeker, glass in hand...
Among the nine rosés I sampled at a tasting organised by London retailers Lea & Sandeman in March, the 2018 vintage of MIP* Made in Provence Classic was by far the best option for its quality at the price. Made from 60% Cinsault, 20% Syrah and 20% Grenache, it epitomises the style: pale coral in colour, with pure redcurrant and strawberry fruit flavours, smooth texture, moderate acidity and satisfying persistence. There is nothing unusual about how it is made, nor any notable marketing angle – instead, it is a rock-solid example of a rightfully popular style.
This is no mean feat. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, it must be tempting to make tweaks to stand out among the crowd (see, for example, Tam's article about some truly awful examples of rosé packaging), and a certain degree of courage is needed to stick with the same formula. But when the results are this good, that courage is rewarded. Too often, pale rosé can be insipid or, at the other end of the scale, overwhelmed with show-off oak or try-hard leesy texture. The function of good rosé is to deliver unassuming red-fruit flavour with soft acidity that is just as happy being sipped by itself as it is accompanying barbecued meats or green salads. The point of drinking rosé in summer is not so much food matching as mood matching.
As a category, Provence rosé may not be the best bargain around, but MIP* Made in Provence Classic is one of the best and most reliable of them, especially at the case price of £13.50 per bottle from Lea & Sandeman. After all, surely there will be at least 12 sunny days this summer, won't there? And if you're entertaining, it also comes in magnum and jeroboam formats.
The Made in Provence brand was previously produced under the name Ste Lucie. The producers and vineyards haven't changed, but from the 2018 vintage onwards it is branded Domaine des Diables. (Meanwhile, the Ste Lucie domaine has been passed on to the son of the current owner, who is now producing his own range of wines.) Wine-Searcher lists stockists in Switzerland, France, Netherlands, Spain, Germany, the UK and New York state.